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CA denies appeal of Ressa, ex-Rappler researcher vs. cyber libel conviction

The Court of Appeals (CA) has denied the appeal filed by Rappler chief executive officer Maria Ressa and former Rappler researcher Reynaldo Santos Jr. for it to reconsider its ruling on their cyber libel conviction.

In a resolution issued on Monday, the CA Fourth Division found the motion for reconsideration unmeritorious, saying the matters raised by the two had already been settled.

The appellate court upheld in July the Manila Regional Trial Court's decision in 2020 to convict Ressa and Santos of cyber libel. The CA also set a longer jail term of six years, eight months and 20 days.

Both Ressa and Santos remain free after being granted post-conviction bail.

The case was in connection with the 2012 article Rappler published that linked businessman Wilfredo Keng to human trafficking and drug smuggling, citing an intelligence report.

In its resolution, the Court rejected the argument that the correction of one letter is too unsubstantial and cannot be considered a republication.

“As settled, the determination of republication is not hinged on whether the corrections made therein were substantial or not, as what matters is that the very exact libelous article was again published [at] a later date,” it said.

The Court also maintained that charges in connection with cyber libel may be filed up to 15 years after the publication of the article in question.

Further, it held that Keng is not a public figure despite being a known businessman.

Ressa said she was disappointed by the development, “but sadly not surprised.”

“The ongoing campaign of harassment and intimidation against me and Rappler continues, and the Philippines legal system is not doing enough to stop it. I am disappointed by today’s ruling but sadly not surprised,” she said.

“This is a reminder of the importance of independent journalism [in] holding power to account. Despite these sustained attacks from all sides, we continue to focus on what we do best – journalism,” she added.

Santos said they would elevate the case to the Supreme Court.

"The CA's decision to deny our motion is not surprising, but it’s disheartening nevertheless. As we elevate our case to the SC, our fight against intimidation and [the] suppression of freedom continues. We still believe that the rule of law will prevail,” he said. — VBL, GMA News